Chapter Eleven: Let's Hit the Hay

Of course part of me was hoping for a romantic dinner with candlelight. And part of me was afraid that Sid's warnings might come true. Would Walter introduce me to the rougher side of sex? Oh, come on, Jamie, I told myself – he already has!

But there we were, having dinner at the Red River Steakhouse, and it was just dinner and nothing more. Walter acted like the scene in the kitchen had never happened. We talked about our families, and things that happened when we were kids, and things we wanted to do someday. We even talked about Hawaii. It was nice, in a way. But it was also sort of a let-down.

"Why would anybody put up a steakhouse on a tropical island?" Feeling a bit sarcastic, I pushed away my empty plate and picked up the tall tropical drink that Walter had ordered for me. There was a little umbrella on the top, stuck into a piece of fruit. "I mean, isn't kind of silly, having a cowboy-style restaurant full of saddles and whips and wagon wheels? I bet there's not a cattle ranch for a thousand miles!" I sucked down the pulpy piece of fruit, keeping my eyes on Walter the entire time. Part of me couldn't help wondering what it would be like to suck on him!

"Looks, but no brains," Walter said quietly, looking back at me. Without any sort of hurry, or a sign of nervousness, he took the little paper umbrella out of my fingers, and stuck the pointy tip in his mouth. Maybe there was a little fruit left I hadn't gotten. But it seemed more like he was putting his lips where my lips had just been. Like we were already kissing each other, our lips meeting and melding and merging, tasting heat and sweet juices all at once, instead of separately kissing a tiny little toothpick.

". . . and the Hawaiians called them panolos, even though they were really just Mexican vaqueros. And they've been raising cattle ever since. And over on the Big Island they've got the Parker Ranch, the biggest cattle ranch in America!"

"Oh, right. I never knew that!" My smile came on automatically, like a light bulb lighting up at the flick of a switch. But I really couldn't think. I just saw flashes of me and Walter together.

Just then these two guys stopped by our table. It wasn't fat little Sid and his retired doctor boyfriend, but a couple of outdoor types I'd never seen before. They were bronzed, their skin all lined and weathered, like old time sea captains or African big game hunters. Sexy, yet they couldn't begin to touch Walter.

"We've got a party this weekend, but a couple of guys dropped out," said one of them. He looked at me curiously, like I was some new type of fish he'd just reeled in. "Feel like coming along, bright eyes?"

"To a party?" I asked, suddenly realizing how unbelievably stupid that sounded. My face turned red and I could feel a big drop of sweat rolling down my back.

"He means a charter party," Walter told me. "Ben's a deep sea fisherman. He always catches the big ones. What do you say, Jamie? Feel like going out together on Saturday?"

"Going out, yeah, sounds good." This time I tried not to let on how the words sounded. But the room felt awfully hot all of a sudden. I grabbed my tall, cold, fruity drink and gulped it down.

There were other guys who came by our table, and lots of them wanted to shake my hand when they heard I'd been in the Marines. Some of them slapped Walter on the back as well, like he'd just hit a home run or gotten a winning hand at poker. Everyone was really rugged, tanned and muscular in an outdoor way. The whole place kept filling up with men, tons of men, all of them gorgeous and all of them seeming to give off a sort of aroma, I guess you'd call it, of primitive, purely masculine allure.

"More to drink, honey?" This was the waitress in the tight little cowgirl get-up who'd been taking care of us all along. She was smiling at me, her perfume all flowery and her lipstick all sticky and her goods stuck right in my face. Suddenly I felt a bit sick.

"No more for us, Calamity Jane." Walter was thanking her, tucking a wad of bills into her cleavage. Yet his eyes were on me. I mean, just on me. "Come on, cowboy. Let's hit the hay."